Magic Pengel: the Quest for Color

Review

posted 9/10/2003 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PS2
There are some things I have never been very good at, like ice fishing or break-dancing. But then there are things I am so hideously unskilled at; you would be hard pressed to find somebody worse than me. Unfortunately, drawing falls into the latter category. You could put me up against a kid in pre-school, the blind, and a monkey, and I would assuredly come in fourth place.

It’s not that I don’t like art, quite the contrary. I have always enjoyed art, from abstract to your basic dogs playing poker arrangement. But I have never been able to partake in the process of making a good-looking drawing. That is, until now. Thanks to Magic Pengel: the Quest for Color, I have been able to take my pathetic stick figure characters and turn them into god-like fighting monsters.

What sets this adventure game apart from all the others is its rather ingenious (if not gimmicky) drawing program that is at the core of the action. Instead of giving you a redesigned character, Magic Pengel actually allows you to draw your own. It starts simple enough, as you have to draw a body and arms, but as you win matches and progress through the quest you will soon be able to make a head, legs, weapons, and much more.

Before too long you are out battling other creatures to build up experience and increase your doodle’s health. The world you navigate has number of arenas that facilitate fights against computer-drawn opponents. At first these characters seem like they are only there to deflate your opinion of your artwork, but as you start winning matches you realize what designs work and what doesn’t.

The combat in the game is easy to control, if not a bit on the simplistic side. A fight will play out like the classic hand game “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, in which you are forced to choose an attack and hope that the opponent isn’t picking something stronger. For example, Attack beats Barrier, Barrier beats Magic, and Magic beat Attack. Your character can also restore its life by charging, but essentially these are the only commands at your disposal.

The problem with this style turn-based fighting is that it is often left up to pure luck, and rarely does skill factor in. Even when you build bigger and better doodles, the game just puts you up against bigger and better adversaries, so the “sometimes you win, sometimes you lose” game play never seems to go away.

The story never seems to pick up, either. Told through extremely long cinemas, the story seems to just drag on, and not once did I ever wonder what was coming next. Since there isn’t any puzzle solving, the actual game seems somewhat isolated from the story. If you were to completely ignore the story, you’d never know it by playing the game.

And to add insult to injury, gamers who are eager to start fighting can’t even skip these slow-moving cinema scenes. The story is nothing short of cornball, and the dialog moves so slow, it feels like the actors are sounding the words out as they go along. Looking back at it now, the story elements of Magic Pengel are on par with stubbing your toe, setting fire to your hair, or watching laundry dry.
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